Using the leg muscles helps to grow healthy new brain cells, new research discovers.
The legs do not just receive messages from the brain about when to move.
Leg movements — especially those bearing weight — send vital messages back to the brain.
The new brain cells created by movements of large muscle-groups in our legs help us deal with new challenges and adapt to stress.
The study provides an insight into why patients with diseases that limit their mobility can rapidly decline.
Dr Raffaella Adami, the study’s first author, said:
“Our study supports the notion that people who are unable to do load-bearing exercises — such as patients who are bed-ridden, or even astronauts on extended travel — not only lose muscle mass, but their body chemistry is altered at the cellular level and even their nervous system is adversely impacted.”
The conclusions come from a study in which mice’s hind legs were restricted in movement for 28 days.
This restricted the growth of new brain cells by 70%.
Dr Adami said:
“It is no accident that we are meant to be active: to walk, run, crouch to sit, and use our leg muscles to lift things.
Neurological health is not a one-way street with the brain telling the muscles ‘lift,’ ‘walk,’ and so on.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience (Adami et al., 2018).